Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Like I said, it's a sentiment that I've heard on the radio and read in the paper and it's plain bullshit.
The ten taxpayers did not kill the casino. Yes their lawsuit halted the land sale to the Wampanoags but really the only direct impact that has had is to deny the Redevelopment Authority of revenue it gets from land sales. For the RDA this is a real issue because they are in desperate need of the money but for the casino it's just one small little hurdle.
Now don't get me wrong I think what these 10 taxpayers have done is fantastic. I think they're heroes. I have major issues with taking land that only was transferred to the city and to the RDA with the stipulation that is not be used for a casino and then ignoring that and working around it. The argument is the stipulation would have been in place but the reality is if the land were to become sovereign land the stipulation wouldn't matter.
However, halting the land sale didn't kill the casino. Even if the sale of the land happened tomorrow you couldn't build on it. Casino gaming isn't legal in Massachusetts. That has to go back before the legislature and then back before the governor. And while I am hearing from some that it will come back before the legislature it doesn't mean it will pass. Even if it does pass a panel will have to select which proposals get a license. There is no guarantees at all that Fall River would be one of the ones selected.
Again the 10 taxpayers didn't kill the casino because it's not legal in Massachusetts and even if it were there is no guarantee Fall River would be one of the selected locations.
Of course the tribe also wanted to put the land into trust which would make it sovereign land. While this would certainly eliminate the problem of the it not being legal or the risk of not being selected Sovereign status is no guarantee either. The tribe has no direct connection to the land and such claims are said to get a low priority.
The 10 taxpayers didn't kill the casino because sovereign status was never a given and without the tribe can't build because it's not legal in Massachusetts and there is no guarantee that Fall River would be one of the selected locations.
Lastly, even if the land sale had gone through with all the other obstacles in the way it would be years, if ever, before a casino was built and operational. It would be years before they ever broke ground.
The 10 taxpayers didn't kill the casino, they simply added one more hurdle to the process. Maybe it will be the straw that broke that camel's back but overall it's a small hurdle compared to what the casino already faced. What the 10 taxpayers have done is given us an opportunity to take a breath and reassess. With Meditech building just over the Freetown line locating the Biopark in the north end makes more sense than ever. It is a project that can break ground almost immediately and one the whole region sees the benefits of. UMD's Chancellor McCormack still believes that the 300 acre site is the best location for the biopark. As for the casino, it's not dead. Mayor Flanagan is already talking to the Wampanoag's about alternate locations and considering that it's not yet legal we have time to do it right.
It would seem so. Flanagan has stated that he is not out of options but indicated the city would take no further legal action. He has also indicated that he would be talking to the state officials and Chancellor Jean McCormack.
Is a casino really dead?
I think if someone threw the Mayor a lifeline he would grab it. At this point he would need some indication that a casino bill would be a high priority in this next legislative session. The lifeline could also come in the form of removing the land restriction on the 300 acre site, which would make the land sale legal.
Of course neither of these things would make a casino in Fall River a reality. There are other obstacles.
It seems that the Mayor is ready to at least talk about bringing the biopark back to the site and Chancellor McCormack has stated that this is the ideal site. She has also made it clear that if the University commits its resources it will only be with a binding agreement in place.
Is a casino dead?
It turns out the Mayor has been discussing other possible locations in the city with the Wampanoags. If that's the case well then maybe we really could have both. It might even lead to a casino proposal I could support.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
the Mitchell Apartment building. Normally this wouldn't be something
that I would blog about but there was something about the story that
got my attention. The Herald News reported that the driver slowed when
the elderly man's daughter was crossing but didn't see him step out
from between two parked vehicles.
The comment section seems filled with back and forth comments on
whether the driver should have used more care of the pedestrian.
Just last night I found myself driving on Bay Street near Gold Medal
Bakery and as I was driving someone crossed from the side of the road
where the bakery is on over to Sunset Hill.
I never saw them.
The only thing I saw was a darkness that broke up the beam from the
headlights. Now the person crossing didn't jump out in front of me.
They were a safe distance in front and I had plenty of time to slow
down. But as I got closer I could see that there was another person
holding a child between two vehicles waiting to cross. What if they
had decided to go? What if they had assumed I saw them and was going
Now things are a bit different between Sunset Hill and Mitchell
Apartments. There is no crosswalk with a light to stop traffic. I
don't think there is any crosswalk at all.
While the commentors online focused on the driver, the pedestrian, the
crosswalk, the vehicles headlights, I was caught by this:
"Police said the street was not very brightly lit…"
Now personally I have driven that stretch of Bay Street enough to
think that they should have no parking on both sides of the road and
create parking spaces within the grounds of Sunset Hill. But I have
also driven it enough to know that when it is really dark out there is
not enough illumination from the street lights. Now this accident
takes place and the police say the street wasn't very brightly lit.
It seems to me we should make sure that areas that are high traffic
and have crosswalks should be well lit.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
TJX the parent company of TJ Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods and AJ Wright has announced that they are closing all AJ Wright stores in 60 days. They will also be closing two warehouses one here in Fall River and the other in Indiana. The closings will put over 1,400 Massachusetts employees out of work, about 800 of them in the Fall River area alone.
Companies are in the business of making money. That's the goal and the priority. I get that, and if AJ Wright was losing money I could understand this decision. However AJ Wright is estimated to have made 10 million dollars in after tax profit for the year. So this decision isn't about making profit, it's about making MORE profit. I get that companies are not obligated to have a moral conscience but something seems terribly wrong with closing a profitable division and putting over 4,000 people out of work because you want to make MORE money.
In this economy companies should take pride in putting people back to work not laying them off so the rich can get richer.
In Fall River the AJ Wright Warehouse may be closing but the AJ Wright store will be renovated and converted to either a TJ Maxx, Marshalls or HomeGoods store but really let me give TJX some advice..just close the store. After all you're putting 800 people out of work, so they can't shop there. Fall River already has over 5,000 citizens looking for work so they're not going to be shopping there either. No, you'd be better off closing it now. Think of your investors!
But if you decide to go ahead and open your store anyway I won't be shopping there. You see as a corporation you have the right to decide what to do with your assets. You can open locations and close them however you see fit and for whatever reason you see fit. You can even close a profitable division simply to make MORE money. But I get to decide where I spend my money and I'm not giving it to a company that puts people out of work simply for greed.
I would urge anyone reading this to considering not giving your business to TJ Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, or AJ Wright.
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
Oh this isn't some sort of indicator to have some religious faith, no instead the example that I've heard various city councilors and local radio hosts and a few pro-casino folks cite is Bethlehem Pennsylvania.
Now every time I've heard this I've ignored it. Even if things WERE working out fantastic with a new casino in Bethlehem that was simply ONE example versus multiple studies and other cities where casinos have had negative impacts. However, now with it clear that the Mayor is unwilling to let this drop or to even slow down and take a more cautious approach I figured it was time to look into this for myself.
What I found was that while the casino has 5,000 slots it employs 750-800 full time workers with benefits. In fact the article that I found to be the most objective stated that no casino in Pennsylvania employs more than 1,200. Now slots isn't the all mighty indicator on employment but it does suggest a certain size casino. By comparison, the proposed Fall River casino is to have 2,500 slots. Does this indicate 3,000-5,000 jobs that been touted so much by the administration or closer to 325-400 full time jobs that a comparison with Pennsylvania would indicate?
So looking to Bethlehem what I get is doubt about the number of jobs a Fall River casino will bring.
Still Bethlehem's mayor is pleased that the anticipated drawbacks of a casino haven't happened. He's quick to point out that crime hasn't gone up. (In fact as of last Spring it had gone down.) Traffic hasn't gotten worse and the character of the city hasn't changed. This all sounds great, but if you read into it a bit more you start to wonder. Crime hasn't increased and the mayor believes this is because more people are working but also before the casino was built there was a ramp up of the police force. (perhaps expecting the worst?) Traffic hasn't gotten worse but (as we'll touch on later) the casino hasn't been the economic powerhouse it was thought to be and a proposed hotel hadn't been built.
So looking to Bethlehem what I get is the character hasn't changed but the casino has not been the overwhelming success it was thought to be. They still don't have a hotel, most patrons are daytrippers (or local). What if Fall River's casino doesn't meet expectations? Will we be so lucky crime-wise? We're already the 4th most dangerous city in Massachusetts!
The Mayor says he wants Bethlehem to be the place where people say they did casinos right and the article ticks of a short list of what went into that approach:
1. Find the right site
2. Find the right operator
3. Get the zoning right
4. Work with your neighbors
5. Figure out your infrastructure needs in advance
Here in Fall River:
1. No other site has been seriously considered
2. No other operator has been courted
3. No discussion has taken place on what zoning changes may be appropriate
4. Surrounding communities have not been taken into consideration or even part of the discussion
5. No discussion of the impact on infrastructure has taken place.
Now, while Bethlehem is more than breaking even the article states they're not making any serious money. The article also says that due to economy that hotel construction was put on hold. (No hotel?? Maybe you can reserve a manger...after all it IS Bethlehem!)
So I look to Bethlehem and see that actual revenue may be a lot less than what we're thinking. It also isn't too hard to think that if that's the case the proposal for Fall River could be seriously scaled back.
Now what's interesting about the casino in Bethlehem is that it's built on the site of a former steel mill. This was something the city pushed for because it would jump start some revitalization of an existing site that needed to be cleaned up. The development was also considerate of the city's history and the legacy of the site itself. I think this one of the reasons why the casino hasn't changed the character of the city because it was designed to blend and fit it. Now when various suitors talked about building a casino there was a lot of interest in building it in the outskirts of the city. This was something Bethlehem expressed no interest in what-so-ever. Bethlehem specifically wanted the development to revitalize an existing piece to the city and felt that a casino on the outskirts of town would simply harm the city's downtown.
So when I look to Bethlehem I see a city that worked to avoid a proposal like the one our Mayor is so aggressively pushing. I see a city that used casino development as a way to spur revitalization, not just economic but urban revitalization. I also see a development that very aware of not hurting the existing business environment. (In fact, this reminds me a lot of New Bedford's NStar proposal which I've always thought made more sense than what was being pushed here...)
Despite the intent, the data so far indicates that casino patrons eat at the casino and shop at the casino and very little of that business seems to trickle down to the rest of the community, again despite the original efforts to encourage it to.
To combat the worry about an increase in crime and negative effects on the city, Bethlehem hired additional officers ramping up before the casino opened. They also changed zoning so that no adult entertainment, pawn shops, and checking cashing establishments could set up near the casino.
Again, has any discussion about zoning in Fall River? Has there been any effort to ramp up our police staff? Yes we've hired back officers but I'm not sure we're even back to full staffing levels.
Bethlehem is also sharing a portion of its hosting fees with other nearby communities with the idea that they too would also share in any negative effects.
Fall River hasn't made, nor I doubt will make any such suggestion to do the same.
While Bethlehem is yet to realize any of the tourism dollars they hoped for they may already be seeing signs of social issues. Compulsive gambling issues seem to be on the rise in Pennsylvania. Calls to a statewide hot-line have doubled since the first casino opened in PA just 4 years ago. Also the age old argument that a casino in Massachusetts will simply rake in the money destined for Connecticut doesn't hold water in Pennsylvania's experience. What their experience suggests is that if the casino is just a mile away folks with addictive tendencies will go more often and lose more money than if they had to travel 100 miles. The social issues this causes become ours as a community to deal with.
So when I look to Bethlehem, the shining example of how casinos can work I see that it's not quite the bright light advocates want to paint it out to be.
The source I relied on most heavily for this post is an article from CommonWealth Magazine. It is a pretty balanced look and is well worth a read. You can find it here.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
When 10 taxpayers formed a group to stop the land sale for a proposed casino I had a conversation with a friend and predicted that we would soon hear voices saying that these folks were stopping progress and keeping jobs from coming to Fall River. And sure enough I've heard, read, and had conversations where that very viewpoint has been expressed. I further said sooner or later someone would suggest suing the ten taxpayers because they were stopping job development. Sure enough I've seen those comments pop up too!
This whole issue has been framed as being about jobs. You're either for the casino or against jobs. Mayor Flanagan looks at the opposition as a "war on jobs" Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs.
How do you tell someone who is out of work and at risk of losing their home that jobs aren't important? How do you tell someone who can't put food on the table that we need to think "long-term"?
What's the old saying "desperate times call for desperate measures"? Well times are tough and people want jobs now. Unlike some I have no doubts that if this were brought to the ballot as either a binding or non-binding referendum it would pass.
You can almost hear the rally: "what do we want? JOBS!!! When do we want them? NOW!!!!
But for some reason all these people who are crying for a casino don't seem to understand that it's NOT going to bring jobs now. It's not going to bring jobs for YEARS! All the arguments that a biopark won't bring jobs for years seems silly when the alternative won't bring anything immediately either, if at all. Even if the city is able to somehow have the injunction against the land sale overturned, even if the injunction never took place, the land sale does not create jobs because you can't build a casino there!
Everyone in favor acts as though legalized gambling is a given, well it's not!
Already you have Governor Patrick publicly stating that a gaming bill is no longer a priority. You also have Speaker DeLeo saying the same thing. Even if they change course and suddenly but this back on the front burner there is no guarantee this is going to pass. It just FAILED to pass because nobody could come up with a compromise! Oh, of course we have the brilliant Plan B, where the Wampanoag's will be able to put the land into trust and no longer have to deal with whether or not gaming is legal is Massachusetts because this will be Indian land. Well that isn't a given either. The tribe's tie to the land seems to be nonexistent and it's been said that other applications are of a higher priority. Of course let's not forget that if for some reason the tribe WAS able to go this route they don't have to worry about gaming being legal, or the environmental protections on the land, or labor laws, or any other protections we take for granted that wouldn't apply to Indian land. Oh yes, our crack legal minds will make sure to carve out the best possible deal for Fall River to make sure our interests are protected. Bullshit. This administration is so desperate to see this happen that they'd give away your first born if that is what the tribe demanded. I have zero faith that our leadership will protect our interests and you should too. Of course brilliantly as a casino faces all of these obstacles we'll spend thousands of dollars fighting an injunction because if we win we can then be stopped by the fact that it's not legal, if it were Fall River might not be picked, that there are no guarantees that the land will ever be put into Indian trust. Flanagan is spending money we don't have to win a battle, and not the war!
So meanwhile, injunction or no injunction we sit and wait. We wait to see if gaming gets legalized. We wait to see if the land becomes Sovereign land. Meanwhile weeds are growing on 300 acres of land and no jobs are being created. Even IF gaming is legalized in the state we still have no guarantee that Fall River would be one of the selected sites. So we wait and wait some more. If the land sale does go through well the RDA can help UMass Dartmouth secure a parcel for the Bio-facility (it's not longer a park) and they can PAY Ken Fiola. Well that's good it's great to know that if we sell off some of this land we can at least RETAIN a job. It would be awful to see Kenny looking for work.
In the meantime as the days, weeks, months, YEARS trickle by, this will all be time that the biopark, because it was shovel ready, could have been built and developed and marketed and maybe start attracting some job opportunities here. Yes, a lot of those jobs would be higher education jobs but there would also be tons of jobs that wouldn't require a college degree. And it's not just jobs.
Oh there's the cry again: Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!
Jobs are important but so is development. You can put all sorts to people back to work in Fall River but if the city is going to prosper we need more revenue and that requires development! Good example, Meditech now plans to build a huge facility in Freetown, job-wise whether it's here or there probably doesn't make a huge difference. However, Freetown is going to get a real estate tax for that new development. If the Biopark had never been disrupted maybe Meditech would have built here in Fall River and we would be getting all that tax revenue.
Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!
Have a conversation with anyone who is in favor of a casino and tell them you're not and they say don't you want jobs? Don't you know we need jobs? But hold on, it's not going to bring jobs today, or tomorrow. In fact it could be costing us jobs because we've totally derailed a project that we've worked for a decade to bring here for one that we can't guarantee will ever see the light of day because it faces ½ dozen hurdles. It's not as simple as a casino = jobs and no casino means you're against. How much time have we spent discussing the negative issues? What will this do to existing business? What will this do the city's crime rate? What social issues will this bring to the city? I'm told that one city councilor said that people are adults and responsible for their own choices. THAT just isn't true. We as a society shoulder a large burden for the choices adults make and then take no responsibility for. This is particularly true in communities like Fall River!
Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!
That's all I hear! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!
Whether you're for this or not, do yourself a favor, grab one of our elected officials and ask them how many people will be put back to work in the next 6 months because of the casino? If you don't include LAWYERS, I'm pretty sure the answer is ZERO. Seriously go ask one of our city councilors, go ask Flanagan, or Fiola, or any member of the RDA. How many people will be put back to work in the next year? 18 months? 24 months? And if they give you an answer question it! If they tell you ground will be broken by the summer ask how? Ask how are we getting passed the legalization. How do we know when it MIGHT become sovereign land? They don't know! They can't tell you! And if you press every answer and just don't nod dumbly and walk away they're going to get mad at you asking. They're going to start throwing out "facts" that they can't back up and start making excuses. They'll blame these 10 taxpayers when the legislature failed to put a bill in front of the Governor that he would sign. They'll say the majority wants this, even though they have no facts to back that up. They'll tell you that a biopark wouldn't have put anybody to work either, when the fact is some construction could already be taking place and Fall River could possibly have had Meditech as one of the parks first tenants. Then they'll tell you we need the jobs, because they have no answers just buzzwords and rhetoric.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Monday, November 01, 2010
Perhaps unsurprisingly the four candidates for Governor never acknowledged me. I did think Dr Stein might take any opportunity to get her message out there, or perhaps Mr. Cahill, but I didn't hear from either of them. I certainly didn't expect the Governor or Mr. Baker to respond especially considering how 'last minute' my request was. But it would have been nice.
I had much more success with the local races. Both Representative Mike Rodrigues and his opponent Derek Maksy took the time to respond. Oddly I heard from every candidate for state representative with the exception of David Rose. While Mr. Jacome (8th Bristol) and Representative Aguiar (7th Bristol) both responded to my emails, neither submitted a response to the question, considering that their opponents did, this was a bit disappointing. It's amusing that one candidate for the 6th Bristol, (Representative David Sullivan), one candidate for the 7th Bristol (CJ Ferry) and one for the 8th Bristol (Paul Schmid) submitted a response but their opponents didn't. It's like I batted .500 with each district!
And what about the responses? Well honestly I don't think any of the candidates who chose to respond really nailed it. What I wanted to see were responses that spoke specifically about issues affecting Fall River and ideas that the candidates had to address them. I wanted to see examples of how their leadership would be used to benefit our city. When candidates did touch upon these things it was usually with too much generality and not enough specifics. I was amused that some of the responses were crafted like a good debate answer, where the candidate manages to say what he or she wants no matter the question.
Still I give much credit, and many thanks to the candidates that took the time to respond, especially considering the late notice. I know I'm not considered a media outlet but that's part of what makes contacting these folks so interesting! Will they respond? My take on this is if they won't respond to me, chances are they won't respond to you either. Again out of all the local candidates I reached out to, only one didn't respond back.
Will any of this help you decide on who to vote for tomorrow? Chances are by now you've made up your mind. However if you're still on the fence maybe one of these responses will help you make your decision, or just that a particular candidate took the time to respond will help you make your decision. If that's the case then I'm glad this blog could be of service.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Dave Sullivan is the State Representative for the 6th Bristol District, a position he has held since 1997. This year Dave is facing off against a Republican also named Dave in the general election. We asked Representative Sullivan what was it about his platform, leadership style, and goals that best represent the needs and interests of the people of Fall River. Below are excerpts from his response, with my commentary. The entire unedited response can be read here.
I believe that my education and experience combined have helped me to be an effective legislator. I possess both a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters degree, and went on to work in the field of social work for many years before becoming a state legislator.
The thing that Dave's detractors love to say is that he is not an effective legislator. That love to cite that he has failed to get any appointments on any of the big committees and that he often seems on the outside looking in, even within our local delegation. Now, personally I like that Dave isn't afraid to stand by himself. At the same time I think Dave has been proven he can work with other legislatures far more effectively than he has gotten credit for.
I have developed a reputation for being persistent with regard to issues that are important to my constituents, an approach that has led some to dub me "a pitbull." I have taken on big fights against corporate giants like Hess LNG, and also have taken on fights that others might have ignored, defending the elderly, the mentally ill, and just this session preventing much-needed services at Corrigan Mental Health from being shut down.
Dave has been very active in the fight against LNG. He has pushed hard on this even when it angered other members of the local delegation. Dave has also worked hard to protect social services. I have always admired the stance he took, almost a decade ago, as the only member of the local delegation to not be in favor of tearing down Watuppa Heights. It was a decision not popular with everyone but there were citizens who disagreed with tearing down the project and they deserved representation too.
My approach is always to see the big picture, passing Economic Development legislation this session that will help the private sector create jobs while always remembering that there are individuals in need of a hand up as we all have been at some point in our lives.
I wish Dave had spoke about what he wants to push in the next session to benefit the city, bring jobs, create tourism, etc.
I ask my constituents to keep in mind that past performance is indicative of future success and I am proud of my track record and will continue to work hard on economic development, public safety and other initiatives if the voters are kind enough to give me their vote on November 2nd.
When I think of Dave's past performance I see someone who is easily accessible and has been the champion of the little guy. Yes, I suppose Dave could be more influential but he has managed to work effectively with his peers while still being independent and standing up for what he believes despite what political wisdom may say. I thank Representative Sullivan for taking the time to respond and wish him the best in the upcoming election. His entire response can be read here.
Friday, October 29, 2010
CJ Ferry is the Republican candidate for the 7th Bristol District House seat. CJ has run for various positions in the past including running for this seat during the last election. Republicans have an awfully tough time winning local races in Fall River; CJ is hoping that this year reverses that trend. We're asking Mr. Ferry what is it about his platform, leadership style and goals that best represent the needs and interests of the people of Fall River? Below are excerpts from his response, with my commentary. The entire unedited response can be read here.
I feel that the people of Fall River should elect me to the position of State Representative of the Seventh Bristol District because I not only listen to the needs of the people, but any votes I take are not only looked at from the perspective of what will this do now, but what will the trickle down do to other facets of government, the budget and the people.
It does seem that elected officials always vote based on what works today without thinking about the future impact. Of course, that is probably because elected officials worry about getting reelected now, and not 20 years in the future. If CJ is elected let's see how easy it is for him to live by this statement.
An example of that is local aid, my opponent has twice voted to cut local aid and claims that the vote helped balance the budget, but the budget isn't balanced when you need to borrow money to make ends meet. Further, my opponent failed to look at the trickledown economics which we residents of Fall River are feeling; a higher tax rate, higher fees, fewer services and more work with fewer people.
This is hitting basic conservative themes of fiscal responsibility. As much as this resonates I would need to know why his opponent voted the way he did, it's hardly ever an easy black and white situation.
My opponent has claimed to be all about jobs, yet his votes have been 50% of the time against business and jobs and he has even flip flopped on the casino issue. I have and still work with businesses great and small and I try to tout the benefits of bringing businesses like wind turbine manufacture and solar panel manufacture to Fall River.
This was an interesting exchange on their recent radio debate. Mr. Ferry's opponent charged that this was information from a special interest group, but it is based on his voting record. It seems the 50% maybe a bit inflated, but it would be interesting to read the source material on this.
In State government we need a cooperative leadership style and one this of the people and for the people – NOT one that is of the individual to support the individual. My opponent has voted over 97% of the time with the House leadership…
97% seems unreasonably high. I understand that he's a Democrat. I understand the need to build support. However there is no way 97% of the time these votes work for Fall River.
Lastly, my opponent recently stated that he hold "Democratic values", it is not Democratic values we are elected for; it is the needs of the State and the needs of the people.
Sure, except the area is mostly Democratic and his opponent is doing a nice job of reminding them which candidate has a "D" next to his name.
When you give me a choice of "Police Officers or Social Workers" as my opponent gave his Democratic opponent, I will always choose a cop. Not that Social Workers aren't important but public safety is as well and we need to prioritize our budget and our needs.
Right now, in this economy, with the condition the city is in, I have to agree. However I think someone could argue that more social workers might mean less need for more cops in the future.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Paul Schmid is the Democratic candidate for the Eight Bristol District. He is currently a selectman for the town of Westport. After winning the Democratic primary Mr. Schmid finds himself facing off against an independent candidate in the general election. There is no Republican challenger. We're asking Mr. Schmid what is it about his platform, leadership style and goals that best represent the needs and interests of the people of Fall River? Below are excerpts from his response, with my commentary. The entire unedited response can be read here.
I am focused on jobs for greater Fall River. I support a casino. It's not a silver bullet, but it can be part of the tool box. The license should encourage the casino to draw patrons to the area, to benefit local restaurants, agriculture and attractions.
I'd love to talk at length with Mr. Schmid on this point alone. As readers here know, I am no fan of the casino, however I've long felt if you have to have one it should be designed in a way that would help bring business to the rest of the city. It seems Mr. Schmid is talking along the same lines here. Certainly it's refreshing to have someone say it's not a silver bullet but only part of the solution.
I support the biopark. I support the commuter rail and taking down Rt 79. The proposed train center in its place will reconnect Fall River with its waterfront. We need to develope our waterfront into mixed uses: condominiums, restaurants, marinas, cruise ship docking and commercial activities including those to support the off shore wind and current turbines that are coming.
I am VERY optimistic about our future. We have many assets. Millions live within a few hours by car. A deep water port. A historic district second to none. A hard working labor force. Heavens, let's get going.
Mr. Schmid is running in perhaps the most interesting of the local races. I wish him the best of luck and thank him for taking the time to respond. Mr. Schmid's entire response can be read here.
Monday, October 25, 2010
As a State Representative in the city, I’ve had the privilege and honor of representing a third
of Fall River for fourteen years. During this time I have worked with many constituents on a variety of issues and we shared in many successes. I have done my best to make Fall River a better place to live, work and raise a family, and I believe my successes speak for themselves.
Experience is the big theme of Mike's campaign, and the big thing that sets him apart from Derek Maksy. Voters have to decide if they want someone new (something we voters are always crying for...) or if we want someone who is experienced with the issues of the region and with the workings of Beacon Hill.
Over the years I’ve led the transformation of the Kerr Mills Site from a pile of rubble to a twenty first century economic engine which now employs over four hundred people in the Advanced Technology and Manufacturing Center and at Meditech. I was also able to help transform Dave’s Beach boat ramp from a haven of illegal drug and sexual activity to a clean and safe public access to South Watuppa Pond. With the formation of the Bioreserve, I’ve led the effort to protect Fall River’s most precious natural resource; our drinking water supply. With the help of Senator Joan Menard and Representative David Sullivan we have halted construction of an ill conceived plan to bring an LNG terminal to Weavers Cove. Finally, we built eight new technologically modern schools in Fall River. It was with the help of the people of Fall River that I was successful in accomplishing these victories and many more.
It's tough to figure out where to edit his comments and where to add my own. Again Mike is hitting hard on the theme of experience and here he's reminding us on some of things he has helped achieve. As much as I wanted to excerpt the above it was tough to figure what not to leave in. It's great to see a list of things he's done it begs the question 'what have you failed to achieve?' and it really doesn't speak to what you want to accomplish in the senate. However it's tough not to acknowledge the importance of protecting the water supply, or the role the Advanced Technology and Manufacturing Center seems poised to play in Fall River's future.
A few weeks ago I drafted the South Coast Jobs Creation plan to help create a positive climate for businesses to grow, expand and provide these jobs. With Representative Patricia Haddad’s help and co-sponsorship, I plan to introduce this piece of legislation immediately upon being elected.
Elect me and look what I'll do! I've heard people comment if he has this great plan why not put it out there now. Well honestly if the legislature were still in session he probably would! I mean why not? It would probably be an even MORE effective campaign bit. Again Mike is sticking with a common theme, experience.
This is why I believe I am the only candidate with the legislative experience, proven track record and dedication to hit the ground running in January and make a positive impact not only in Fall River, but in the entire South Coast.
Um...still hitting home on that same theme. Representative Rodrigues entire response can be read here. When I've reached out to candidates in the past it is usually the underdog who takes the time to respond and the more established candidates tend to ignore my requests, so I greatly appreciate Mike Rodrigues' willingness to respond. That said, I'm a little disappointed in his response. I was really hoping that THIS candidate would tell me more about what he wanted to achieve, especially versus what he has already done. I think part of the disappointment stems from the primary campaign. I was caught up in the appeal of getting new people into office and not someone who has been up in Boston for over a decade, BUT I found it tough to take Mike's primary opponents seriously, mostly because Mike consistently spoke more knowledgeably and had by far the best platform on his website. I guess I was hoping to see just a little bit more of that here.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Attorney Steve Torres, Fall River's full time corporation counsel has been moonlighting but he doesn't want you to know it.
The problem is the Standard Times ran a story yesterday morning that mentions that the town of Wareham is not happy with delays in receiving a computer audit report from Attorney Torres who is handling the matter as a special counsel. That story received mention yesterday afternoon on WSAR's The Alex Stylos Show and that's where the fireworks began.
Stylos told his audience that he came across the story in the Standard Times and after a little footwork confirmed that the Torres mentioned in the article is our very own corporation counsel. Stylos and his co-host for the afternoon, former City Councilor Cathy Ann Viveiros remarked that Torres was hired as a full time corporation counsel and given a hefty raise to reflect his full time status. Stylos however also remarked that he really had no issue with Attorney Torres moonlighting. The two engaged in some slight banter that I took for as being tougue in check saying that if he WAS going to moonlight he should at least not show up on the front page of the newspaper, especially in a less than flattering light.
That's when the phone rang. Apparently the call came in on the 'hot line' and when Stylos picked up Attorney Steven Torres was on the other end. Apparently working more than one job does not keep him from being a dedicated listener. In 5 seconds it was clear that Attorney Torres did not like the fact that this was being discussed on air but he attempted to clarify the situation and set the record straight. If I understood it correctly, he was brought on as special counsel in Wareham before taking the Fall River job and that despite what the Standard Times article would suggest he was not the reason for the delay. He further went on to say that he felt this report could have been done in-house by the town but that they voted to hire him to oversee the effort.
At this point I'm thinking that this guy is WAY too insecure and that if he had ongoing jobs maybe he shouldn't have accepted a full time position but he explained the situation this will probably be a non-issue. If he had only hung up the phone.
Instead over the next several minutes Attorney Torres proceeded to RANT. He wasn't happy that this was brought up on the radio and said that Stylos could have simply contacted him first. Ah Ha! Stylos responded that he did call and sent emails, with no reply. Torres then went after Cathy Ann saying that she was attacking him as a way to get back at the Mayor for beating her in the last election! He threatened to lodge complaints and go to advertisers all for mentioning a story that was reported, not by WSAR, but by another news agency.
Lefty's View: With one phone call Attorney Torres has changed the story from should he be moonlighting to does this man have any sense of judgment or self-control! The arrogance and display of egotism was infuriating. Does this man really feel that he is beyond reproach, that he is infallible? Whether Attorney Torres likes it or not his actions as a public figure are fair game for public discussion. Certainly his working for Wareham while serving in a full time capacity in Fall River is worthy of at some dialogue. Mr. Torres needs to realize that when he calls in to the local radio station or talks with a reporter he does so as Fall River's corporation counsel and he should conduct himself in a manner worthy of that position. When he rants and raves on live radio he embarrasses not only himself but the people of Fall River. When he threatens to take action against the local radio station for discussing a completely truthful news report he tarnishes our ideal of freedom of speech and instead embraces the mentality of a police state.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Derek Maksy is the Republican candidate for the First Bristol & Plymouth District seat in the Massachusetts State Senate. This is the seat that Joan Menard has held for the last decade and that she is now vacating. I asked Mr. Maksy why he feels he should be the candidate of choice for the people of Fall River. What is it about his platform, leadership style, and goals that best represent the needs and interests of the people of Fall River? Below are excerpts from his response, with my commentary. The entire unedited response can be read here.
Mr. Maksy said I believe people are tired of the same old politics as usual, that is why I am running for the vacant State Senate seat.
Mr. Maksy also has the unenviable luck to run against an established opponent, someone who is well known to Fall River voters. Perhaps if people are really tired of the same old politics that will be a good thing, however I saw and heard very little from the Maksy campaign until after the primary election.
Mr. Maksy said elections are about validation for a job well done or a work in progress, and my track record shows you both.
The problem is I don't think the people of Fall River are really all that familiar with Derek's track record. I think more needed to be done before the primary election to introduce Mr. Maksy to the people of Fall River. Now? Well at this point if you don't know his track record are you really taking the time to find out about it?
Mr. Maksy said state government must make more cuts to its budget without reducing local aid. As high school and college graduates and other job seekers struggle to find jobs, Mr. Maksy firmly believes it is the responsibility of Beacon Hill to provide the necessary resources to promote these jobs in our district.
This certainly rings as music to the ears of the average Fall River resident. It's also a refreshing change from the attitude of our last Republican governor who kept the state in the black by drastically cutting local aid and basically shifting the burden to cities and towns.
Mr. Maksy said. "We have to stop the State unfunded mandates. We have to reduce government spending. Right now, we need to get our house in order and stop putting the burden on the taxpayers."
What unfunded mandates is he referring to? Where would he reduce spending? It's so easy to make these types of statements and by not offering specifics there is little chance in upsetting anyone. Still the idea is one we can all agree with.
Mr. Maksy, a current Lakeville selectman, has dealt with the cuts the state has passed down to the cities and towns. He has served on the Zoning Board of Appeals in Lakeville, the Middleboro Planning Board, Downtown Revitalization Committee, and Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District and he believes in term limits.
I have to say I like this level of experience because I think it gives him a good grasp on the struggles of cities and towns in the current economic climate. It's one thing to represent us in Boston and here about how tough it is and another completely to actually struggle with the realities of local aid cuts, dwindling tax revenues etc. How many terms is the candidate pledging to serve?
Mr. Maksy and his wife Madelyn have two daughters. He put himself through college and has a degree in Business Administration, engineering, as well as a master's in public administration. He is a third generation farmer and a self-employed contractor. He also works for the Dept. of Transportation as a traffic signal supervisor of which he would resign if elected.
This is all sounds pretty good to me….
Mr. Maksy said. "Contrary to my opponent's opinion, commuter rail service being extended to Fall River and New Bedford would be a benefit to the region, as long as it does not have to be completely subsidized by the taxpayers". Mr. Maksy said the commuter rail service has been a success in Lakeville. "It's a great means of transportation to higher paying jobs in Boston," Mr. Maksy said. "It just needs to be managed like a business."
I'm not sure exactly what Mr. Maksy is stating about his opponents opinion here. A quick check confirmed his opponent is all for commuter rail. Now personally I have always had major concerns about the cost of bringing commuter rail to the region and the cost of maintaining it. However I think the reality is that rail service has a history of something that depends on government subsidy. If Mr. Maksy is elected and wants to make self sustaining commuter rail service a priority of his tenure I would applaud the effort, but I'd like to know how he thinks he can make that a reality.
Mr. Maksy said bringing a casino to the region is great for economic development (my opponent disagrees). If a casino is built in the region, Mr. Maksy said there must be a mechanism to give the license fees from it to all surrounding cities and towns and not the State, the fee will help the area with infrastructure needs and social problems that come with a casino.
Well of course, I do not favor a casino, but the idea of giving the license fees to surrounding cities and towns is an interesting one. I think this would make the whole idea of legal gaming in Massachusetts less appealing if these fees went to just a few communities rather than the state as a whole. I think Mr. Maksy would have a hard time gaining much support for this in the Senate.
Mr. Maksy also feels the state should live within its means as well as reduce the current sales tax of 6.25 percent to five percent.
"If the state would lived within its means like its residents, there would have never been a need for a 20 percent increase in sales tax," Mr. Maksy said. "We need to rollback the sales tax and stop putting everything on the backs of the taxpayer."
On the surface I think many of us would support rolling the sales tax back to 5%. However how do you do that? Saying that the state needs to live within its means does little to say where cuts can and should be made. If you want to say the state needs to work with less revenue you need to suggest areas where cuts can made and money saved.
If elected, Mr. Maksy will propose a reduced tax exemption (61C) for folks over 65 like the current tax exemptions for Agricultural and Recreational (61A AND 61B).
I actually like this idea a lot. It's not something I think many would necessarily think a Republican candidate would be suggesting but I think such relief is needed ESPECIALLY in communities like Fall River. Without reading up on the specifics on 61A and 61B I can only say that not every senior over 65 needs such relief.
Mr. Maksy said the state can not afford its current pension system, and that it must not be subsidized by the tax payers
If Derek Maksy wins election and did NOTHING else but help revamp our pension system he would boast a successful legislative career. Pensions are literally crippling cities and towns but how do you overhaul the system? Any attempt will be met with great resistance from all the people who currently benefit from the current system. Still, this is an area that needs attention NOW. I just wish Mr. Maksy had included some specific ideas on changes that could be made.
Mr. Maksy said. "I need everyone's vote on November 2 and I won't let you down"
I thank Derek Maksy for submitting his response to A View From Battleship Cove. His entire unedited response can be read here.